According to Nicholas Bloom –an economist at Stanford University who has thoroughly studied remote working in the past year – at least 42% of the American workforce is now working full-time from home, approximately 33% aren’t working altogether, and the remaining 26% mainly comprise of ‘essential services’ workers who continue to work from their business premises. Source – https://news.stanford.edu/2020/06/29/snapshot-new-working-home-economy/
Several companies around the world have switched to remote working in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the biggest tech-based like Facebook and Twitter, which also happen to be trendsetters for several other types’ companies in terms of work environments, methods, and styles, declared quite early that they would allow close to 50% of their workforce to continue working-from-home permanently.
During any other time, a massive step like this would send shivers down the spine of many people – especially investors and stock owners – connected with these particular companies. But an unprecedented and long-term global pandemic doesn’t exactly harbor normalcy or the same-old regular faith in norms that worked before.
However, rapid technological advancements and their widespread availability have allowed us to somehow still keep the work & economy flowing by bridging the massive gap left with removing most of the workforce from their usual working spaces. Although there are still many largescale economic concerns, several countries are still moving towards major deflations & recessions if they haven’t already gotten there.
Accordingly, what was quickly emerged as one of the biggest concerns of working-from-home remains the overall mental health and wellbeing of the people who have to cope with newer hurdles while still maintaining their output. While this may be easy for some of those who find it easier to work from their homes, this certainly isn’t the case with most people worldwide. Additionally, people working in industries like hospitality, retail, healthcare, travel & tourism, etc., who need to be in closer contact with other people to do their jobs, have faced some of the hardest setbacks in their careers, finances, and health.
In this blog, we will discuss some of the biggest challenges of working-from-home and how they may also contribute to potential economic setbacks.
The Overall Economic Impact of Working-From-Home
The overall economic conflict associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the remote working measures is that it’s challenging to fully quantify and gauge because there are too many variables to consider. Furthermore, many of these factors comprise abstract–yet highly relevant variables like decreased mental health, lack of motivation, decreased levels of collaboration and communication, lack of common working space, etc., which are even harder to measure and quantify. But, at the same time, it is imperative to pay close attention to these as they are the forces that drive the most profound levels of growth & prosperity.
However, overall, there have been mixed reactions regarding working-from-home protocols as some have been able to benefit from it while some haven’t. Here are ways how working-from-home can hamper the economy further –
1) Mental Health
Even though some studies show an increase in productivity (across specific industries and job types), working-from-home mostly leads to stress created by maintaining a professional and personal life from the same space. Additionally, the added social restrictions and inabilities in the overall movement have contributed to further problems like anxiety, isolation, social awkwardness, stress, and more.
A report published by Hinge Health sometime in 2020 states several people working from home reported experiencing burnout, and nearly half of adults working from home experienced stress, anxiety, or depression. Many of these adults said that these experiences began or worsened after they started working from home. Source – https://www.hingehealth.com/report-wfh-health-risks/
This isn’t an isolated incident. A study conducted by the UK government states that mental distress was 8.1% higher in April 2020 than between 2017 and 2019. Another study shows the proportion of adults who reported a clinically significant level of psychological distress increased from 20.7% in 2019 to 29.5% in April 2020, before returning to 21.4% in July 2020 and 21.5% in September 2020. Sources – https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14874 // https://psyarxiv.com/mjg72/
Tackling mental health may sometimes be a complex issue because of differences & subjectivities in people, cultures, home environments, work environments, and more. However, more empathy & compassion with lesser judgment is an excellent start towards creating happier and healthier people.
2) The Ever-Looming Threat of Decreased Productivity
In a recent paper published by Adam Ozimek – a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics – he shows surveys conducted of hiring managers to gauge their reactions to remote work during coronavirus and found that 32% saw an increase in productivity among their workers during Covid-19 shutdowns, compared with about 23% who saw a decline. Source – https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3638597
Across the globe, HR departments, with the aid of technological software developers and teams, have successfully designed & created several types of comprehensive platforms to integrate & record overall employee data like work inputs, vacation planners, leave calendars, efficiency ratios, and a lot more.
3) Increased Problems for New Employees/Recruits
In the case of new hires/employees, TINYpulse states that remote working has resulted in 34% less peer recognition across the organization. More recent recruits haven’t had the privilege of spending time at the office, which means they’ve also missed the opportunity to experience the ‘company culture,’ resulting in a 20% decrease in fully acknowledging company values. Source – https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/new-hires-suffering-in-silence-wfh-remote-onboarding
Working towards creating & organizing various types of community programs, special orientation sessions, seminars on organizational values, team-skill building workshops, mentorship sessions, occasional team meetings, etc., could help solve problems related to nurturing a well-acquainted and friendlier overall workforce.
4) Technological Barriers
The Future of Jobs Reports published in October 2020 stated significant differences between different countries and sectors. Around 60% of high-income workers such as the US and Switzerland cannot fully work from home. This figure rises to more than 80-90% for economies such as Egypt and Bangladesh – primarily due to digital connectivity and the sectors common to those economies. Source – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf
If nothing else, the pandemic has undoubtedly boosted the overall availability, cost-effectiveness, & use of technology in various forms to keep the work momentum flowing. Organizations should reassess their budgets & goals to incorporate better tech-based solutions to ease & improve the overall flow of how work can still be done from home.
5) Increased Inequalities in Opportunities of Advancements
Remote working may also cause increased inequality between different groups within (sometimes similar) workforces. This means that employees who may have received more education or already know how to function and deliver within work environments mostly have it easier than those who do not. This creates segregation between people of different backgrounds and adds pressure in coming together and functioning as a proficient team.
Generally, employees working from more developed areas with better internet access, a variety of occupations, and better worker policies would naturally do better than those working from lesser developed and middle/lower-income regions who have to contend with lower internet quality, compromised working spaces, constant presence or closer proximity of family members that can sometimes make it extremely difficult to work from home.
6) Changing Norms Pose a Big Threat
This global pandemic has shown us that even massive changes within almost no prior notice are almost entirely possible. Nearly every living person on earth right now would agree, not to mention the people who have lived in cities their whole lives and are now seeing it go through severe changes. The change is so visceral that anyone living in cities cannot miss a part of it. How many organizations have relinquished their office spaces to save on rent, and how many local restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, and more have vanished during the course of the pandemic?
The answer is a lot, and, in some places, the numbers continue to rise. This leads to decreased spending, leading to a decrease in collected revenue by the government, which may further bring about bigger & harsher downfalls.
Wellness By Design
Wellness By Design is Ingeni’s way of guiding people towards achieving the best in health & wellness through attaining an optimum balance in their lives; especially when it comes to an individual’s home and work life, which, as discussed, is continually turning into a blur because of the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home protocols.
Keeping in mind the weight of added pressures today, our ‘Wellness By Design’ campaign is an initiative to help you help yourselves a lot better and in a way that is in synchronization with the increasingly apparent healthcare crisis.
Through this journey, our primary goals remain to continually weave relevant & educational content so you can learn better, innovate on our natural, organic, & plant-based products & services so you can feel better, and a revolutionary mHealth package so you can do better.
However, we have to all gear up towards incorporating the most applicable measures to improve overall efficiency and output. One study estimates that by 2028, 73% of all departments will have remote workers. Source – https://www.fundera.com/resources/working-from-home-statistics
The Future of Jobs Report stated that ensuring employee well-being was among the key measures being undertaken by leaders looking to shift to remote work. In particular, more than a third (34%) of leaders said they were taking steps to create a sense of community among employees online; they were also looking to tackle the well-being challenges posed by the shift to remote working. Source – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2020.pdf
In the meantime, activity trackers & health monitors that gratuitously come along with a good mHealth package (link to our mHealth blog) may be a good solution and start to help all of us take care of ourselves better so we can continue to chase more profound goals like happiness, health, & overall prosperity, better.